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Past Questions and Answers | March 2012


Question #1

Question:  What plants like tea, and is it good for a compost pile?

  Sara Kirschbaum, Los Angleles, CA

 

ANSWER:   Tea is somewhat acidic and is traditionally used around plants that prefer a bit more acid than your soil has. Tea works fine in a compost pile. When completely composted, it will not add any appreciable acid to the soil so is safe to use on all your plants.



Question #2

Question:  How to prevent insects from killing plant, yellow squash, cucumber, and cabbage,any help will be greatly appreciated. help please

  Otha Williams, Decatur, GA

 

ANSWER:   It is important to identify the insect that is causing your problems. If you take some in a jar to your local Extension agent, they can tell you what the insect is and how best to kill it. However, Sevin ® Dust is a good general purpose insecticide that kills most pests on yellow squash, cucumber, and cabbage. Be sure and read and follow the label directions.



Question #3

Question:  I have a tree that my gardener claims is an apple tree. I never get any flowers or fruit. Each year he trims it all the way back to the limbs but this year he has left the branches and claims that this will aid in producing fruit. While it has some resemblance to an apple tree I don't think it is. Any ideas what it might be?

  Linda Burr, Walnut Creek, CA

 

ANSWER:   Your gardener is trimming it back too far. The branches that have the flowers and fruit are the small branches extending from the main limbs. When pruning a fruit tree, only the small branches pointing down are trimmed off, the ones pointing up need to be left on as that is where the flowers appear.

Most apple trees require a pollinator tree. If there is not another apple tree nearby, the tree will, if not pruned so severely, bloom but not set fruit.



Question #4

Question:  How does your home remedy work for codling moth . do they drink it and die or drown in the liquid .

  Deanna Busse, Foresthill, MD

 

ANSWER:   It does both. If they sip it, it will kill them and many of them also drown in the liquid.



Question #5

Question:  I have planted a photinia super hedge and the leaves on some of the plants are drooping. There has not been an issue with watering or drainage and they are in a full sun position. We have had a mild summer although the past 2 weeks have been humid. I planted them approx. 3-4 weeks ago and it has only been the last few days that their appearance has changed.

  Michelle McMullen, Brewarrina, NSW

 

ANSWER:   They could be suffering from transplant stress. How are you watering them? You should be giving them an inch of water once a week to promote good root growth. Did you trim the foliage by one third when you planted them? They may have more foliage to support than their new roots can manage. Try these things and see if they do better.



Question #6

Question:  I have watched your email about sticking a copper wire through a tomato plant stem to prevent early blight. I don't like the idea of piercing the stem, so would a lose coil of copper wire wrapped around the stem work just as well?

  Byron Maddox, Forest, VA

 

ANSWER:   The copper wire acts as a source of concentrated copper to treat the blight. If the stem is not pierced, it cannot absorb the copper, so merely wrapping the stem in copper will not help.



Question #7

Question:  How can I prevent 'damping off' of my newly sprouted plants?

  Paula Rizzo, Monroe, LA

 

ANSWER:   Damping off is caused by a variety of bacterial and fungal infections. It is important to sterilize any containers you are using to grow seeds in by soaking them in a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water for ten minutes, then rinsing them thoroughly. Using sterilized potting soil is important, too. Soil can be sterilized by heating it in a metal pan in your oven at 200 degrees F for 30 minutes.

When watering the seedlings, water from the bottom by setting the pots in a shallow pan with some water in it. Remove the pan when the pots have soaked up as much water as they are going to. You want the soil moist but not squishy. Watering from the bottom avoids splashing soil, which contains the fungal spores and bacteria, on the plant.



Question #8

Question:  When do I need to prune my fruit trees. They an apple, peach, pear and grapes this year. I am trying to get it right this year.

  Felton Gainey, Clayton, NC

 

ANSWER:   Pruning fruit trees used to be done in late December and early January. Now the suggestion is that you can prune as late as early February without damaging your trees.



Question #9

Question:  Crazy as it sounds I have mice and rats eating my tomatoes and cukes. Is there anyway to prevent that?

  Ann Cool, Richmond, VA

 

ANSWER:   Placing hardware cloth around your plants with traps set around the outside of the cloth is the best way to prevent that. The rats and mice get caught in the traps when they go to climb over the mesh.

Are you feeding birds or storing grain or other food near your garden? Moving your bird feeding stations from around your garden and keeping stored grains in rat proof bins will stop attracting them near your garden. However, with the drought, lots of people are having trouble with animals coming up and bothering things in a search for food and water.



Question #10

Question:  How do I get rid of a snail infestation which are eating all my hibiscus blooms?

  Julie Reissman, Mission Viejo, CA

 

ANSWER:   Traditional slug baits were very toxic to everything, including pets and kids. However, there are new iron phosphate baits that are relatively nontoxic to anything but slugs. They are sold under the names Sluggo and Escar-Go! These are granules that you spread around the garden. The slugs eat them and get a fatal case of indigestion.



Question #11

Question:  Can I use wood ash that does not include treated wood in my garden? (fireplace ash) and how much can I use?

  Robert Elmer, Roscoe, IL

 

ANSWER:   Wood ashes are a traditional source of potash, or potassium. In terms of commercial fertilizer, ash would be about 0-1-3, so one pound of ash would contain .01 pound of phosphorous and .03 pound of potassium. You would need to apply enough wood ash to give you the recommended amount of phosphorous and potassium.




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Unfortunately due to question volume not all questions can be answered, but an honest attempt will be made to get to them all.


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Gardening-tip:



Rotate Certain Crops

Avoid planting potatoes and tomatoes where they grew last year. They carry the same diseases, so it's best to rotate them.

You'll have much healthier plants, and more successful crops.


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